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There’s a funny thing about being told you can’t do something. It generally means that even if there was no prior desire to do aforementioned banned thing, you really want to do said thing now. Ain’t nobody gonna tell me what I can and can’t do! Except, uh, being told no/stop/don’t in many scenarios is perfectly valid and should be abided by. Especially when the person saying it is yourself, the thing in question is spending, and the reason is because it’s for your own good.

Since starting my shopping ban on October 24th, I want to spend ALL THE MONEY. Even with the woeful spending I had to do with my last minute move (for the moving truck, key deposits, mail forwarding, buying pizza and beer for the friends who helped) I still have a desire to spend some dough on fun stuff instead of lying low and licking my wounds.

Here is where many a “how not to shop” article or blog post would proceed with a point form list including the following: don’t step foot in the mall, don’t go on your favourite shopping site, block retailers from your email list, etc. To be honest, I feel like every one of these lists looks identical, leaving me both uninspired and unequipped to handle the very strong pangs of temptation. Yes, the basics should be mastered, but these are grade school building blocks and I’m trying to wrap my head around calculus.

So now we’ve established we already know the obvious, where is the inspiration to hold firm going to come from? What’s going to keep me going when I’ve had a bad day and I just want to have a delicious bowl of ramen from my favourite Japanese restaurant, or that pair of shoes I’ve been jonesing for when I feel I “need” some retail therapy?

I’ve decided that instead of “tips” to stop spending, I need an entire paradigm shift if I’m going to be successful. I have to think differently, and identify myself as a different kind of person – a person that doesn’t spend.

So instead of a “how not to spend” tip list, here are my guiding principles that remind me why I am no longer a Spender.

  • Because the meal out will only make me feel great at that moment – and then that’s it. I love all things cuisine. I love eating, cooking, and fine gastronomy. I can however indulge that love at home, in my kitchen. There’s an itch I’m trying to scratch when I eat out. Trying the latest restaurants is a reprieve from boredom at that moment. A brilliant new restaurant is a sensory delight during the meal: smells, tastes and colours … and then guess what? The meal is over, and life is exactly the same. I still work at a job I hate, I still pine to retire super early and open up an air bnb on a beautiful Caribbean island, and I still have loads of debt – which I just added to with that meal! I need to truly realize that the more meals out – which solves a temporary need for escape – pushes me further and further away of living my dream of a permanent escape from the rat race and towards my dream life.
    • Overall point: A meal out brings pleasure for a couple of hours, but pushes me further away from a ‘forever goal’ of retiring early.
  • Because I don’t want to be that mindless consumer sheep. It’s not lost on me that billions of dollars are spent convincing us to shell out money for every tiny facet, experience, and moment of our lives. I don’t need a eureka moment, I don’t need to be enlightened – I know this. However faith without works is dead, my friends, and all the knowledge in the world means diddly squat when I’m still buying trendy tops or spending $12 on a cocktail because the bar is “cool.” My money is the physical manifestation of the life force I traded in to reach my corporation’s end goals. I spend most of my waking hours working at something I don’t like – giving my life force for someone else’s end game – to turn around and hand it to yet another corporation to help them on their fiscal trajectory?!? Am I mad?? This madness stops here. I will no longer blindly follow the pack.
    • Overall point: I’ve worked to buy things, and the purchase of those things keeps me enslaved to working. Marketers, corporations – everyone else but my true self – want me (well, all of us) to be enslaved to this cycle. My life energy and it’s physical manifestation into money will now will be directed to myself, my loved ones, and meaningful causes I believe in.                                                           
  • Because being trendy/fashionable/stylish will not bring any genuine happiness or meaning into my life. As much as I want to berate myself for ever having cared about “style,” I want to remind myself – and you, dear reader – that billions are spent on bombarding our subconscious minds with images of who we should be and what we should look like. To draw on the last list item above, I know what the game is, and I know this doesn’t bring any lasting happiness. If anything, it makes you broke, which makes you bloody miserable. Fashion is designed to be a moving target; to follow it we must constantly chase it, emptying our pockets more and more just to keep up. I’m throwing in the towel; I’m out of this idiotic race. I’ve gone broke being the fashion plate, and you know what? Compliments feel good for about 5 seconds tops. My debt, however, has kept me awake at night for years. Peace out, fashion. I’m so done with you.
    • Overall point: Spending money to be on trend is the most inane way to burn it. Vapid at its core, it does not bring any form of genuine happiness. From now on, I’m solely using my money to create my dream life for me and my loved ones, which will bring genuine and meaningful joy.

 

And that’s it! I wanted to eschew lists of rules in favour of a short set of principles. These are my guiding reminders that are specifically targeted at my particular pain points; principles that sum up the essence of why I’ve spent money in the past and why I will not continue on that course. My goal is to have them remind me of who I truly want to become: someone that doesn’t need tips on how not to succumb to spending, because I now only use money to bolster my life in more meaningful – ergo, frugal – ways.

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11 Comments

  1. Have you read “Your Money or Your Life”? It’s a personal financial classic and has helped many people change especially those who want to escape from working life hell. I highly recommend it. By the time I read it, I was already on my journey so it had less of an impact. But there is that “Ah ha!” moment in the book.

    When I was younger, I spent a lot of money on dinners out for a lot of the reasons that you enjoy going out to eat. When I jumped on the frugal personal finance bandwagon, I had to redefine what it was I wanted but try to do so within the realm of staying me. (Note, that was in the beginning stages as being frugal ultimately changed the old “me” into someone else.) But I ended up becoming the “let’s grab coffee/tea” and “let’s grab A DRINK” type of person and while food does sometimes accompany the liquids, I’m very happy to now just go somewhere nice and drink something. For coffee/tea I like to choose swanky hotels or restaurants so I get great decor and service at a higher price point than your local coffee place. Paying $7 for a cup of coffee/tea is a lot better than paying $50-75+ for a meal that I may or may not enjoy but really just enjoyed spending time with the people at my table.

    Guess my point is that you can make little tweaks and overtime have the exact same enjoyment but without feeling like you had to give something up.

    ~ Pru

    1. Hi Pru!

      I read it a few years back, but I don’t think I was in the right place mentally to really benefit from the message – kind of like how we brush off good parental advice when we’re young and silly but then really appreciate it later on. Thanks for the reminder – I think now is a really good time to re-read it seeing my main MO as of late is to change my relationship with money and spending. I’m definitely a lot more ready for it – going on the local library’s website to request it is next on my list!

      Switching to liquid meet-ups is a brilliant idea. My pre-FD social life was all centered on going out to eat and all my friends are fellow foodies – like attracts like, right? However because of that, I really don’t know how to navigate this growing pains stage where I’m transitioning from spender to saver when it comes to socializing. People who have been frugal for a while have likely attracted other frugal acquaintances by now, whereas I’ve been rather isolated since deciding I want to change my life in this regard. I’ve tried suggesting all sorts of free events to do with friends which usually becomes “how about we go eat at XYZ instead?” and I just wind up making an excuse to cancel. Seeing I don’t want to be anti-social forever and at one point will need to start fostering my friendships again, coffee/tea in a hotel bar is a brilliant idea. There’s a couple nearby me that do live music most nights as well. A drink is a bit too tempting for me at the moment – I loooove mixology and interesting cocktail combinations, so seeing the average cocktail is $12-$15 and gosh knows I won’t have just one, perhaps better I avoid them until I build up a stronger shield against my weaknesses!

      Forgive me if I’ve missed it on your blog, but do you have a pre-Baroness Pru blog post? I’d love to hear about your journey from pre-frugal to the investing boss you are now!

  2. I will probably re-read Your Money or Your Life in 2017 because it can’t do anything but help keep me motivated 🙂

    I too have found that people shy away from free stuff. Oddly enough and this is something I really don’t understand – when you are in or near a big city, the free stuff is really fabulous. Just going to a university concert for example – especially when it is an arts oriented school gives you exposure to wonderful talent and it is important for the students to play to large crowds. Win-win for everyone.

    In any case, I tried that route and was generally rebuffed by friends. In the beginning with the liquids I was pretty insistent that I was “busy” but wanted to catch up so could only commit to an hour or so. I would say I wasn’t hungry and just stick to the drink or coffee. But as time went by, the reality is that people did get busier so they were up for it more and more. And I do still go out for dinner but it is rare because we are busy and the focus is less on the food and more on us catching up.

    Now I do have friends that are really into wine vs foodies. So when we do meet up, I am usually OK to splurge and have them select a good wine. It is a rare enough event that it doesn’t hurt the wallet especially since I will order something that is moderately priced food-wise.

    I don’t have an About post. I started blogging a few years ago in 2012 and then took that blog private in 2015. I started this one in 2016. Basically my turning point was 2008/2009 – during the downturn. I was nearly laid off and it really shook me to the core. On my small team two of us were potential layoff victims me and someone else. Although we had different jobs, on a personal level we were both in similar positions financially (similar savings levels, similar financial goals etc.).

    Needless to say I ended up being the lucky one and the other person was laid off. We kept in touch for a couple of years and this person really struggled to get a job. Took over 1 year (nearly 18 months if I recall correctly), ended up in a different area, much lower pay and had completely gone through their savings.

    After the first round of layoffs when this person was affected, my company had a couple more rounds. I didn’t know whether I was safe. It was extremely, extremely stressful especially because at that time there were massive layoffs across the country in nearly every industry.

    I promised myself to do everything I could to not feel as vulnerable again. And so that meant kicking it up a huge frugal notch and so I did. I’m in a much better position now and could weather a similar storm (out of work for 2ish years probably) but because I’ve added in a mortgage since then, I am still vulnerable – hence why I want it gone asap.

    And that’s a little something about moi!

    Pru

    1. Hi Pru – just a note to bump you below, I responded to you on Jill’s comment accidentally. I’m glad I did though – it’s great to get her thoughtful voice into this conversation as well 🙂

    1. Thanks for the background, Pru! I really admire you and your grip on your financial life (which encompasses how we live our whole lives, doesn’t it?) so it’s great hearing about how you started and what influenced you. When I was young I heard a great saying that stuck with me, “a smart man learns from his own mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistake of others” – I thought of that while I was reading this, not that your coworker erred but because you had the good sense to empathize with his struggle and decide that you would protect yourself, then took the measures necessary to do so. No one does that anymore! Canada and the US are the poster children of living paycheck to paycheck with no fallback, and with a mountain of debt to boot and face calamity when a layoff comes around. You’re so ahead of the curve and inspire me to keep doing better, truly. I’m sorry you had to go through the fear, anxiety and vulnerability of potential job loss (the thought alone makes me instantly sick to my stomach) but how you took that situation and made the very best of it by changing your relationship to your finances is amazing.

      I’ll try the beverage route for sure. It’s comforting to hear that eventually peers will fall into similar lifestyles and it won’t be all going out and blowing wads of money on trendy restaurants all the time. Sometimes I look at the group texts where plans are being made and think “don’t any of you need to save any money? Buy a house one day? Pay off your debt?!” and then feel so awful for being judgmental, but truth is once I had my eureka money moment I looked at money and spending differently and can’t fathom why anyone would still want to blow money like that. I re-prioritized my life (still working hard on making sure my actions always live up to the priorities now!!) so can be hard to connect now sometimes. Feels good to know eventually everyone else will busy up too and will prefer quality conversations catching up over a nice glass of something rather than keeping up with the newest spots.

  3. This is such a great thread I thought I would add something from my own experience. I have found it painful to eventually be overlooked when certain friends make plans. I think they realize I’m just not up for the glitzier events anymore. I’ve also become much more introverted so I’m not even comfortable with some social situations anymore. Even knowing that, it can still sting at times. But then I realized that the people I wanted to impress were never the ones closest to me. For some reason I was trying to create an image or perception of myself that may or may not be accurate. Or I was attempting to justify myself. Basically I was seeking the approval of people that really didn’t care. Now whenever I have the queasy feeling that I might be rejected for trying to do things in a more frugal way I ask myself if I seek meaning or approval. Is a quiet coffee on a beautiful deck, having a real conversation more meaningful than getting a sitter so you can go somewhere flash and be seen out and about? For me it is. I’m lucky in that once I stopped seeking approval and began living life my own way, genuine authentic people have gravitated towards it. It took time but I’m happier than ever to have real friends that totally “get” me.

    It’s also really helped that I have kids. I often ask myself what I would say to my child if he always wanted to go on every ride, see every movie, attend every party, etc. I’d tell him he’s choosing between a lifestyle and a life. We save our money for family vacations, emergencies, we have helped a family fleeing abuse start over this year and I’m so proud of how generous my kids have been. I can’t expect my kids to have values that I don’t consistently practice, so I am sure to talk about why we do without certain things or wait for sales or fix and repurpose etc. I also want my kids to recognize what makes them feel good–that it’s not having the nicest toys and latest fashions. I’d like them to have genuine relationships without feeling they have to follow the crowd to fit in. Thanks for this lovely conversation I’m learning so much from you both!

    1. It takes a LOT of guts to admit to wanting the approval of others or feeling like we don’t quite fit in, and I thank you so much for putting it out there. I fall into that trap much more often than I would like to admit (but should admit more, for the sake of working it out!) and you phrased it perfectly -it really does feel like a sting and brings on a queasy feeling to feel rejected or not included. I know exactly what you mean. However you got it right – after a while people realize we’re not going to say yes to the fancier events, and eventually we become out of sight, out of mind – but not to real, genuine friends. Now I try to remind myself it’s a little blessing to not be invited out. I imagine if I was there, I’d be spending money on something fleeting that’s not that great anyway, when I could’ve been putting those funds to my long-term goals that will positively impact my life. My mom used to say “rejection can be God’s protection” and although I don’t take a religious stance on things, yes, not being invited out does protect me – helping keep me on the right track and focused on my goals, helping to thicken my skin and look inwards to what really matters. I find genuine friends have come out of the woodwork since saying no to the glitzy events – those I can have good conversations with over a simple coffee or tea in one of our kitchens. Another thing I think of when I feel the sting is, is this person/people thinking of ME right now? Likely not, and I think the sting or embarassment of thinking of someone else’s opinion when they care not a fig for me at that very moment is like the smack in the face I need to not care anymore. I feel so silly thinking I’m caring about someone that’s totally oblivious to me and my life right now, and that snaps me right out of it.

      It’s really beautiful that you rise above the feelings that naturally come at that moment to think of your kiddies and their greater good. Putting aside a feeling that hurts our egos to think of something so much greater is a wonderful thing, and it will surely reap incredible results. We need more children learning the sweet satisfaction of their effort and how to commune with nature than we do wearing name brands and wielding iPhones. Helping them care for the needs of another family and be giving to others is what will build upright character in a world where the iPad and having more than the next kid “wins.” There’s a reason depression and dissatisfaction with life is so prevalent now, and it’s because we’ve made objects the source of our happiness – but it can never give us that. Humans weren’t meant to find their happpiness there. So you’re doing an amazing thing teaching your kids where true joy lies!

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